Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Let us be FREE!!!!!

"Mmm mmmm MmMMmph!!!" said the blonde.

Ever had someone pin your wrists behind your back during sex?

Your back is on the bed while your partner holds your arms and pins your legs down as if to say “I’m running shit here, and you can scream all you want, but no one is gonna hear you come!” And then it leads to that aggressive sex – the type where you look at each other the next morning like “what in the name of Jebediah’s balls possessed you last night?!?!”

If you haven’t, give it a shot. The transference of power from one partner to another in the bedroom – at least on occasion – is a boatload of fun. I personally love it when a woman exerts total dominance and assumes complete control of the goings-on in the sack.

My sex column-travels in Chicago have led me to personal acquaintances with many representatives of the city’s sexual “subculture” that often delve into BDSM (bondage and sadomasochism). I’ve found that it’s the everyday folks – the ones we pass on the street, squeeze fruit in the grocery store next to and cram in with on the train – that are completely into being physically restricted and restrained in the name of getting off.

Through them, I’ve also come to learn that my personal line is drawn when it comes to actual, hardcore bondage: the idea that I can’t physically remove myself from a sexual situation if I truly need to is enough to make Captain Winky take a powder.

I like my sex nice and airy – the opportunity to utilize my natural double-jointedness is essential to fluid bedroom fun. And what about all the little things that being restrained during sex will prevent? What if I accidentally cut one during the act (it’s happened) and I can’t pick my partner up and fling her to the other side of the bed/floor/table/couch to hide the smell? And do I have to suffer the indignity of explaining to my partner that she needs to do something to rectify an itch on my scrotum because I’m tied up?

Sure, I’ve watched plenty of bondage activity through porn and various trips to the “Late Night” category on Comcast On Demand, but it took seeing it live and in living color to realize that it wasn’t my cup of tea.

Early last spring, Julia and I attended an invite-only, private BDSM dungeon party in the West Loop. These parties, held once a month at various locations, are revealed through text message the day of and are completely no-holds-barred.

I remember not thinking too much of the couple that came in right behind us (other than the fact that the guy looked like Keith Richards) until I saw the woman chained to a ceiling apparatus wearing nothing but a corset. Random clips and clothing pins were attached to her nipples and clit throughout the evening, and her man spent hours spanking her all over her body with various devices.

It was interesting to see that she was moist and her nipples were hard from an activity that I got extra-creative to avoid as a young ‘un.

There was also this cat that looked like one of the Indian dudes from The 40-Year-Old Virgin. He was strapped to a vertical platform (as you can see, my BDSM argot isn’t exactly polished) and getting whipped so bad that his asscheeks were bleeding.

Now, I’m all about sexual felicity any way you can get it, but how the hell did he explain to his boss in whatever IT department he works in that he had to do Monday’s decryption exercises standing up?

Some might assume that my aversion to being tied up and whipped comes from the latent slavery issues that come from being a black man. A dubious theory at best; I simply view most things BDSM differently than those who appreciate it. They see a full pleather suit as a skin-tingling, erotic experience; I see it as a profound downside to my thimble-sized bladder. They see rope for genitalia as a way to stimulate orgasms; I see red, swollen balls the size of kiwifruit. They see handcuffs and get wet; I see them as objects that I’ve been fortunate enough to stay out of, in any context, for 27 years.

Picture me in a black leather Speedo with a zippered face mask and arms tied behind my back. My nuts are turning lavender because my partner won’t actually put hand, tongue or anything near them that actually feels good. And for some reason, she suffers a stroke and dies. No safe word will help me, and I’m left there to starve, pass away and rot because I can’t reach my iPhone. This is why I’ll never be the one.

That said, there is something inherently sexy about watching women in leather and bondage. I don’t even know if I’d feel good about being a dom myself…something about having a leash connected to my woman toys with my preference for relationship equality.

But I’ll always appreciate watching. Well, not lashed Indian man-ass, but you know…

Monday, October 27, 2008

The knock you hear from my apartment

"Boom-bap is a religion. MK is Jesus."


I’ve used this space recently to extol the virtues of Black Milk, so no need for a career retrospective.

This is about his sophomore album, Tronic, which drops tomorrow. It’s the follow-up to Popular Demand, with which Black beat out rather stiff competition in 2007 to win my Album of the Year award.

Popular Demand is probably the best debut hip-hop album since College Dropout; as it goes, when you come out the gate swinging for the fences, your next effort is just destined to be a letdown. While Tronic is very much so not a failure, I can’t say that I’m 100 percent in love with it.

When I saw it hit the net last Thursday night, I almost got into a damn car accident acting like a giddy bitch who just found a bag of coke and lots of money. All plans I had for that evening were put on hold as I hooked the computer up to the stereo and fired that fucker up. My reaction after listening to the first third of the album can best be described as ”…oh.”

You see, I’d already been listening to the album’s first two singles, “The Matrix” and “Losing Out”, pretty consistently. The latter, guest-starring the do-no-wrong Royce Da 5’9”, had just leaked a couple days before and got me amped as the fuck-all for the total project. It was an unpleasant surprise that I found myself wanting to skip blocks of three tracks at a time on Tronic.

Where I normally would have cherry-picked a few of the album’s tracks, put them on a CD-R with some other stuff and moved on, I knew I was dealing with my favorite producer of the new millennium (sorry, ‘Ye), and so I gave Tronic several consecutive listens. I pretty much spent all last Friday listening to the album, from the train to the office and back home again.

And wouldn’t you know – that bastard started growing on me like scabies. I spent the afternoon bouncing texts about it back and forth with my man Joey over at Straight Bangin, and I think we had aligned reactions to the record. I gave some tracks a more discriminate listen and reached the point where with some of the shit I gave the cliff face to on Thursday, I was rocking out to while waiting for the Blue Line train home Friday.

And then I remembered: Many of MK’s beats that didn't hit me immediately did grow on me before long. Sound of the City, Caltroit and much of his other material had something of a delayed response for me, but I ultimately came to adore them. So I found myself going back to the well to listen to some of my more beloved Black Milk goodies, like “Duck,” “Pressure,” and “Bang That Shit Out.”

After four days of listening to Tronic, I can say with certainty that it doesn’t have the staying power of Popular Demand, but it’s gonna be in rotation for much, much longer than most albums that have come out this year.

I don’t know what it is about Milk and those ridiculous drums (if you don’t wanna go to war after listening to “Long Story Short,” you’re light in the ass), but he has made it into the very exclusive cache of artists/producers who I will always, always check for…no matter the weather.

Don’t download this. Go cop it tomorrow.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Black Vibes

So I’ve been running around busier than a recaptured slave, which is the reason I haven’t been heavy on the blogging this week.

Black Milk’s Tronic leaked to the nets yesterday, so I’ll be bloggin’ about that first thing Monday. But for the time being, I’ll default to the return of my Black Vibes column. For those of you who didn’t know, I had this column a few years ago and it was basically solely focused on hip-hop. But now I’ll be writing about all manner of things.

Ignore the banner picture…I’m about 15 pounds lighter and a lot less hirsute. No less angry, though. I need to get on top of switching that out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dustin's ghostwriting skills at work

I work for a public relations agency here in Chicago. A couple months ago, one of my coworkers asked me if I knew of anyone we could pay to write a rap. Disregarding my failed, dirty gerund-filled raps from high school that sounded as if they were influenced by the bastard protégé of Too Short and B.G., I agreed to write the rap myself.

You all might remember this lady, Ellen Dow, as the old dame who did “Rappers Delight” in the Adam Sandler movie The Wedding Singer. So the schtick is that both she and Life Savers Wint-o-Green – one of the products we work with – turned 90 this year. The rap is supposed to contain equal parts product branding and nonagenarian braggadocio.

I churned out 16 bars that I could imagine an old white lady kicking out with relative ease, and the above video is the end product. This thing is supposed to go viral, and rumblings around the office is that Leno or Letterman have reached out, so here’s to possible bootleg fame. You can view the whole hookup at

The royalty checks aren’t gonna be rolling in for this one, but I’m sure I’m knocking on the door of ghostwriting for Hove or such someday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Siempre que, Dondequiera, Cualquier

About seven years ago, my mother and I trotted to the Fox Theater in Detroit to see Maxwell in concert for the first time.

It was his tour to promote his recently released third studio album Now. Opening for him was an up-and-coming New York vocalist named Alicia Keys with minimal stage presence and a horrible, spastic 4-foot-11 hypeman in an orange jumpsuit. Mama and I were happy enough to see her complete her set.

At that point in my life, I was almost exclusively bumping hip-hop and didn't particularly care about singers. I’m a child of old-school soul and most contemporary R&B just bores me – in fact, if your name isn’t D'Angelo, Anthony Hamilton or Raphael Saadiq, there’s a good chance I haven’t checked for your R&B album in the past decade.

But something was different about Maxwell; Now is on the top of a very short list of contemporary R&B albums I can stick in and play from front to back. It is, quite simply, an amazing record.

But Now, as well as Urban Hang Suite and Embrya, have nothing on his live show. Now I’m straighter than a guitar string, but when he started singing “Whenever, Wherever, Whatever,” he almost got a face full of my dirty boxers.

Sunday night was a throwback to that show: Back to the Fox, with that same wonderful young lady by my side. We were delighted to see that, after a good seven damn years out of the spotlight, homeboy still got it.

Maxwell’s stage presence remains stellar, with a full band and backup singers that compliment him famously without ever drowning him out. He was prone to the occasional gratuitous gyration or three, but they didn’t take away from the performance.

As I sat there and listened to the collective soaking of panties all around me, I wondered how many R&B artists are still kicking who can evoke such a reaction from young and old alike. Like, no one over the age of 25 gives a shit about Ne-Yo; while Ronald Isley – whom I actually appreciate more than Maxwell – has an age demographic of about 55.

That show evoked strong reactions from a very diverse age group of women; evident in the fact that my mother was hopping out her seat screaming and hollering along with women my age.

Maxwell apparently has a three-part album in the works called Black Summer’s Night, to be released over the course of three years. During the show he performed a couple new joints, including “Pretty Wings,” which has only marginally sated the fans on the internet who’ve only heard half of the song.

Yet he never gave any of us what were collectively anticipating: a release date.

He made a great point between songs: “I don’t even have an album out, and y’all coming out to see me like this. I don’t know what to say.” He knows damn well what to say: when a truly talented artist puts out some sheer heat and then goes hermetic for fucking years, they steadily build anticipation that results in fans coming out in droves to get a taste when they finally do reemerge.

Either Maxwell is fucking with us, or he’s a genius, and his next album is gonna go diamond. I think D’Angelo could revive his career the exact same way if he cleaned his life up and decided to go back on tour.

When the show ended and we sauntered back to my truck, I realized something: As I grow older and continue an ascent into so-called “manhood” that requires incrementally less maternal guidance, Maxwell will always be our thing. From the moment I put “This Woman’s Work” on a CD for her while in college, mama and I have shared in our love of his music and subsequent frustration in his failure to put out another album. (“What’s up with Maxwell?? Damn!” is a frequent refrain of ours).

Where our paths diverge is in my speculation of his sexuality. But since that’s her second man, I suppose the idea that he might be gay is difficult for her to accept. Frankly, dude could be into spooning warthogs for all I care; as long as Black is dope, whenever the hell he decides to drop it, that’s all that matters to me.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Spell his name right!!!! Please?? For me?!?!?!?

Dude looks like a pudgy, grown version of that one kid from Kindergarten Cop

Statik Selektah did his damn thing.

In a week that saw two egregiously shitty album leaks from rappers who need to hang it up and should have never picked it up, the Lawrence, Massachusetts DJ/producer dropped a compilation album with an above-average amount of heat. Stick 2 The Script is by no means perfect, but there are at least six tracks worth bumping for various reasons. Here are a few:

- “To The Top” (Cassidy, Saigon, Termanology): but Sai and Term both bring it over a pretty jazzy smooth beat, though I’d never normally care to hear rap abortion Cassidy over anyone’s track,

- “For The City” (M.O.P., Jadakiss): Oh my Christ, that sample from New Jack City caught my attention before Fame, Billy Danze and ‘Kiss ever did. I suppose it’s good that these cats are still getting work. But seriously, how close are we to that plastic surgery operation, guys?

- “Talkin’ Bout You (Ladies)” (Skyzoo, Joell Ortiz, Talib Kweli) – An ode to Brooklyn chicks. I like this because I can actually visualize the type of woman they’re describing. It’s also kinda sad to me because eight years ago I would salivate anytime saw Kweli associated with any track. Now, I just don’t care that much.

- “On The Marquee” (Little Brother, Joe Scudda, Chaundon): A Little Brother track that sounds like a Little Brother track from the group’s glory days. I really, really wish someone would step on Joe Scudda’s larynx though. And not because he’s white, but because listening to him rap is the equivalent of watching three straight hours of C-Span.

- “Streets of M.A.” (Masspike Miles, Termanology, Reks & some other useless Boston mothafuckas): I’m sure someone somewhere still cares about Boston rap and is convinced that the hardest niggas alive inhabit that city and its whereabouts. Right. I like this joint because of the boom-bap beat and the fact that Reks leans into this bitch. The hook is homo-riffic, though.

- “Destined to Shine” (Torae, Sha Stimuli, Jon Hope): Ill, ill beat. Epic, just like I like ‘em. Torae is straight, but there are some otherwise seriously unimportant cats on here not worthy of this beat.

I was gonna link to each individual song, but ZShare is acting like a bitchmonger right now, so here’s the entire album.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How Dustin loses his hood cred...

Yeah, yeah, yeah....
Color me a masochist.

But when I’m in a fragile state – as I have been for the past couple weeks – I tend to partake in activities that exacerbate that. It’s my way of getting in touch with that which is troubling me.

Back to that later. There are very few movies that I avoid like the plague: English period films, gay porn and anything starring Queen Latifah are on the short list. One film I’ve especially avoided in the four years since it came out is The Notebook. If you’d have asked me two months ago, I would've confirmed that I'd never, ever subject myself to what I was certain was the celluloid version of receiving a colonic.

Well, not only did I watch it last night, but I watched it alone. No folks, not even the opposite sex had to coerce me into watching this estrogen fest. But I can find the merits in any movie, even if it’s not targeted toward my demographic. Frankly, The Notebook just wasn’t as stellar as everyone would have me believe.

It wasn’t a bad movie per se, and films don’t get much more plaintive. But I tend to bristle at movies whose principal agenda is to make you cry; when the music, the dialogue, the acting and storyline all take a backseat to attempts at emotional invocation. This is why I thought Million Dollar Baby was overrated. I mean (*spoiler alert!*), the Notebook couple dies at the same time, in the same bed?

Come the fuck on. I know the film is adapted from a book, but LIE to me, yo! Rewrite it with James Garner’s character getting his hands on a couple blue pills and rocking Gena Rowland’s wrinkly loins to the point where she’ll never forget his ass again! Happy ending!

I like sad movies that sustain you in a state of melancholy throughout their entirety instead of breaking out the violins and fucking with you near the end (see Fresh, Dolores Claiborne or House of Sand and Fog for good examples of the former). I prefer a level of emotional resonance in romantic films that’s less hamfisted and in-your-grill: they should ask you to embrace the humanity of the protagonists' relationship instead of focusing on its sappy aspects. Some might argue that true romantic movies can’t do that, but I disagree.

I think Ryan Gosling is a superb young actor, but he didn’t deliver to his capabilities in this film. And I sure as shit got tired of hearing Rachel McAdams squealing like a damn banshee with a thumb tack stuck in her left asscheek.

This movie didn’t earn any real tears from me, even in my state of mind (I've only released the waterworks for one film ever). But it did remind me of what it’s like to love someone even more than myself and to want to be around them at all times despite constant fighting and nitpicking.

And it also made me never wanna get old. Let me get to, say, 69, then push me onto the L tracks or something...just dont let me see it coming.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Coolio's Fantastically Fucked Voyage

Fuckin' give it UP, yo...
Show of hands: How many of you can name a Coolio song OTHER than “Gangsta’s Paradise” or “Fantastic Voyage”?

Okay…now how many of you were in high school last time he was relevant? Show of hands…

I’ve about had it with this reality television formula: Take one part aging, washed-up former A-list music artist; one part sagacious, centering wife; add several parts’ rowdy, defiant, image-annihilating children; shake up, and strain in a nice, big house with cameras.

Coolio is the latest artist, but not the last I’m sure, to subject himself to the platitudinous reality show circuit with “Coolio and the Gang,” as a single dad “raising” (read: exploiting) his six teenaged kids (Two bits to a bottle of piss says they aren’t all from the same woman). I’m assuming that those Dangerous Minds royalty checks are drying up, so of course this must be the only reasonable way to maintain the opulent rapper lifestyle.

The idea behind “Coolio and the Gang” is that he’s looking after these mini-Coolios (who we’ll call “Coolats”) while starting a clothing line and “maintaining” his rap career, which is akin to convincing Aaliyah to be in a relationship with me. And the show is gonna be on the Oxygen network, of all stations! How in the blue hell does an unattractive, black rap artist with cornrows whose spent his career romancing gang culture get an audience with the white, XX-chromosome-having target Oxygen viewers?!?!? Was VH1’s programming schedule already too full of emu shit?

I’m going to call this now: Coolio will never release another album that anyone will truly care about, and his clothing line might rock on the boys’ rack at TJ Maxx, but he won’t be giving Sean John or Roc-a-Wear a run for their loot.

I’m also gonna call that no one will give a damn about “Coolio and the Gang.” The last time I recited any Coolio lyrics, I was still able to count my pubes, and I’m guessing you couldn’t pick up the phone and call someone who's bumped any of his music in the past several years.

Besides, no one is looking for a replacement of “Run’s House.”

Monday, October 13, 2008

Banned RedEye column: Clearing the room in the name of love

Note from my editor after receiving this column: Seriously? Farting? I'm passing on this one. Even if you wrote a column on bodily functions with incredible tact, it's still not something I'm going to give to RedEye readers as they're sitting on the bus or grabbing morning coffee. But there was none of that in your column. It was crass and juvenile.


Guys, tell me this hasn’t happened to you before:

You’re laying on the couch with your sweetie, forced to dedicate your evening to an “America’s Next Top Model” marathon. Those Extreme Nachos with jalapenos you ate earlier make your stomach start rumbling.

You do your best to hold it in, but then you chuckle at something on the television, and before you know it: “BRRBBBFFFFTTT!!!”

You have just christened your girl to a fact your friends already knew about you: You’re a nasty bastard prone to clearing out rooms.

We have an idea on how we wish to conduct ourselves when we first start dating someone, and it’s seldom indicative of our true natures. In the words of Chris Rock, we put forth “representatives” of ourselves when dating.

“Representatives” don’t belch, have no need for tampons and won’t rattle couch cushions with powerful emanations.

But we all get to a point where our unsavory habits come out, and I think a lot of people look at that as an inevitable, irritating – if not often comical - aspect of every relationship.

I think that getting to the point in a relationship where one feels comfortable farting around their partner is a sign of progression. Smelly progression, but progression nonetheless.

Flatulence and other putrefaction can be interpreted as signs of intimacy. If, during the shooting of deuces, the bathroom door gradually becomes open wider and wider, and he becomes less and less concerned about leaving his skid mark-infused tightie-whities on the bathroom floor in plain sight, it means he’s extremely comfortable with you.

That disgustingness is not only a sign of growing fondness, but also of increased vulnerability. It’s on the level of a man sobbing in front of his woman, letting her know how much money he earns or (shudder) letting her drive his car.

Ripping farts and similar foul behavior is often considered juvenile in nature and typically associated with men. In my experience, that just isn’t the case.

Women like to let off those “silent murder” farts that you can’t hear, but find out about when it’s too late. Even as your nose hairs start falling out, she vehemently denies it’s her, even when it’s only the two of you in the room.

And as much as it still makes me bristle when I hear a woman speak – in detail - about her “monthly visitor,” I appreciate that no woman ever did it unless they were completely comfortable with me.

Interestingly, just about everyone I polled informally agreed with me: gas passing is an innocuous natural bodily function. Several said they don’t see a problem with enduring the filth from people with whom they have sex with and see at their most vulnerable.

Of course, you have to get to that point with people, so nasty behavior doesn’t often fly in early courtship. Be mindful not to make disgusting mistakes of an epic caliber, as I have:

Maybe two weeks into dating a new woman, I did the unthinkable and, umm, forgot to flush her toilet after copping a squat.

She told me about it weeks later. I wouldn’t have blamed her if she never wanted to see me again, but she didn’t think my leaving floaters in her toilet was a big deal.

I imagine things like that happen in relationships all the time, so if a woman can be that forgiving of that level of nastiness early on, it’s probably a good sign that longevity is in the cards.

Still, I wouldn’t do what I did so early on and expect a phone call back.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Oh dear mother of Christ....

Some 11 years ago, a young, aspiring Chicago emcee named Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. made one of the fiercest one-verse tracks the genre has ever seen. It's called “Hungry,” and it sits as the ninth track on his stellar One Day It’ll All Make Sense album. On that track he defiantly declared, “Skip ladies, this is ‘rip-a-mothaFUCKA night” - on some "come-and-get-me" type shit - over a fierce No I.D. loop.

Now, in 2008…he’s “rapping” lines like “This-is-that-automatic/I stay fresh like I’m wrapped in plastic” over some techno, Euro-synth-shitbag beat straight from the boards of Pharrell’s confused ass.

What the fuck happened? Common has been sitting comfortably in my “Top 10 Greatest Emcees of All Time” list for a decade, which is the main reason I’ve let him get away with more and more of his creative liberties as the years pass and I witness with consternation the devolution of the flow that still gives me goosebumps every time I listen to “Watermelon.”

I found merits in Electric Circus that most folks couldn’t. I thought Be was a fantastic album despite a clearly watered-down flow in comparison to just about anything on Resurrection. I even gave him a pass for the generally inferior Finding Forever (especially for that pedo look he shot us all on that homo-tastic album cover).

But there’s no forgiving “Universal Mind Control.” This shit is hot, liquid garbage that even Common purists will find it a tall order to justify. I could take a shit on a blank CD-R and come up with something better than this. And the knowledge that Pharrell has taken the bulk of the production credits on his upcoming album, also titled Universal Mind Control, leads me to believe that it will actually be WORSE than Electric Circus.

And this is what Common wants. I read an article a few months ago about how he wants to emulate the music that gets asses shaking in European nightclubs. Man, fuck all that; you’re a rapper…RAP. If I wanna hear shit like this, I'll go hang out in Wicker Park or tune into MTV2 at 3 a.m.

Common is a rapper constantly struggling for an identity under the facade of constantly “reinventing” himself. I like that he found a “home” with Kanye for a while, but I simply don’t think he really knows what or where home is. I fear that in figuring it out, he’s gonna alienate his fan base while maybe (maybe!) getting the mainstream success that’s basically eluded him his entire career.

First, The Foreign Exchange and now Common. *Sigh*.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The halcyon days of sex in cinema

Shannon...the queen of 90s sex cinema. All bow down.

Man, Mr. Skin ain’t got nathan on the kid.

I was in the sex-and-nudity movie clips game far before launched his website. The difference between him and me is that now he’s making a pretty robust living doing it on his website and I’m stuck in admiration and frustration that I didn’t come up with the idea first.

As with many hormonally insane young teenagers, I couldn’t easily get my mitts on hardcore porn, so I defaulted to cable television. Good thing I grew up in the 1990s Red Shoe Diaries era, when skin flicks and softcore premium TV shows reigned supreme. Thanks to a highly liberal father who didn’t care if I was watching loose titties so long as I wasn’t out doing dirt in the streets, my VCR was always programmed to record age-inappropriate material, like episodes of HBOs Real Sex, Luke’s Peep Show on Pay-Per-View, and movies like Showgirls where my childhood innocence was truly put to the test.

But I will always have a special place in my heart for the 1990s B-grade cinema that went out of its way to show as many long legs, taut tummies and ridiculously long, fake hair (and even faker boobs) in (and out of) lycra. These were the movies in which some 21-year-old first-year film school student probably hammered out scripts for a few hundred bucks a pop so there could be SOME dialogue between the naked shower montages.

Instead of searching for incrementally creative ways to tape all this filth-flarn-filth over my parents’ movies and TV shows, I undertook an amateur video editing operation called simply “The Tape:” I cut and spliced all of my favorite sex scenes and skin-revealing moments from everything ranging to Skinemax movies to random episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 (yes, Donna was that deal…don’t hate).

When you think about it, some of this stuff is better to watch at times than porn: Even though the action is simulated, a lot is left to the imagination...which can at times be a bit sexier than seeing that gyno closeup.

The Tape made it somewhere close to the four-hour mark before the project came to an end (read: I grew up). But here are five of my favorite movies that helped define that glorious project:

Body of Evidence (1993) – Damn what any of y’all have to say about it, but I had a massive crush on Madonna’s pasty behind in the 1990s. Essentially a ripoff of Basic Instinct, she plays a woman on trial for murder who ends up seducing her lawyer (a post-Mississippi Burning, pre-Inside Man, still fugly Willem Dafoe), who’s having trouble with the morality of it all. Made during Madonna's more sexually liberated (than usual) period, perhaps this movie is the most exhibitionistic thing she did. I mean, she goes apeshit in this bad boy. As with many of the movies of its ilk – and most on this list – you’re best off grabbing the unrated version for the extended scenes.

Favorite Scene: She masturbates in front of Dirty Dafoe before he ties her to the coffee table and takes her forcefully from behind. And Madonna is Madonna, so of course she enjoys it.

Poison Ivy 2: Lily (1999) – If you’re anywhere near my age and didn’t have a major crush on Alyssa Milano at some point in your life, you’re either gay or a castrati. She did a number of films during this time period of her early 20s where she worked very goddamn hard to break away from that squeaky-clean “Who’s The Boss” image, nipples-first. In a movie series that features the penis-numbingly overrated Drew Barrymore (who used body doubles) and that one chick from My Name Is Earl, Alyssa came right in and showed why she's the boss. (*crickets chirping*)

Favorite Scene: Milano gets seduced in a recliner by her much-older schoolteacher who looks like one of the Middle Eastern bad guys from True Lies.

Sex and the Single Alien (1993) – This film has always troubled me: for some reason, the scenes from it were erased from one of the original cuts of The Tape, and now I can’t find the film anywhere for the life of me. A touching story about a guy who is suddenly adorned by aliens with the power to make women orgasm just by looking at them, there is very little actual sex in this movie, but the tons of gorgeous wimins writhing and moaning to “climax” appeal to my female masturbation fetish. It’s not on video, it’s not on DVD and I haven’t seen it on television since I went through puberty. If anyone can hunt this bad boy down for me, and I have two dollars to my name, I’ll give you one.

Favorite Scene: Dude uses his talent on a woman in the backseat of a convertible broken down in the middle of nowhere. Seriously folks…find me this movie!

Bound (1996) – Gina Gershon, even in her forties, is one of the sexiest women breathing. Jennifer Tilly is also sweat-inducing, despite a voice that makes you wanna commit hari-kiri. Put them together in a lesbian-infidelity mob thriller and greatness is destined. Gina played the masculine half of the coupling, but her sheer gorgeousness shined through the baggy pants and no makeup. Unlike many of the movies on The Tape, this one is actually worth watching all the way through, if for no other reason than an always-exciting Joey Pants sighting.

Favorite Scene: There’s really only one clip in this movie that matters: their one and only lesbian love scene, in which Gina’s toes curl and make the mattress cover come off. It’s not very long, but it’s entirely impactful. Again, cop the unrated version.

Illegal in Blue (1995) – The ultimate B-Movie sex fest, and my personal favorite. A pre-Clueless-fame Stacey Dash and the peckerhead from Son In Law spend an entire movie frolicking around in the bedroom in some of the most extended sex scenes I’ve ever seen in mainstream cinema. The plot is definitely derivative of Basic Instinct and so many sex-kitten-with-a-lethal-secret movies like it, but the reason it works is because a) Stacey Dash was then, and still is, one of the most beautiful women in the world; and b) She really did look vicious in blue lingerie. This is another one that I really, truly wish someone would release on DVD. I mean, this film has a cult following from just about every pervert I know. Seriously. Can the mofuckas in charge of DVDs please get it in gear?!?!?

Favorite Scene: So many I cant even decide. The movie was like 45 minutes of fucking and 30 minutes of “plot.” If you are fortunate enough to come across this somewhere and it’s the R-rated version and not Unrated, please don’t bother. Keep looking. And then send me a copy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

You may wanna leave this all behind...

Cakemasters in full effect

If I had to name five hip-hop albums that have a dedicated following in the proper circles, yet are underground enough to remain criminally slept-on, 2004’s Connected by The Foreign Exchange would be near the top of that short list.

That album was groundbreaking not only because of North Kakalak native Phonte’s very capable flow and gut-busting-yet-always-candid lyrics, but mainly because of Netherlands expatriate Nicolay’s groundbreaking, highly atmospheric, keyboard-driven production. It’s one of those rare contemporary rap albums that captivates both vocally and musically and pretty much holds onto you through every track. Everyone needs to hear it before they pound dirt.

Connected’s follow-up has been as about as long-awaited as the Second Coming of Jesucristo. But I’m not quite sure we were waiting for…this. After my first listen-through of Leave It All Behind, three questions came to mind: 1) Who, or what, deluded Phonte into thinking his singing could carry a whole damn album; 2) How can he not realize this will probably further drive a descent of quality that started when 9th Wonder left Little Brother; and 3) Do I still have that bottle of cyanide in my medicine cabinet?

Nicolay is still the truth, and he definitely comes correct with the album’s often melancholy production. Only problem is, I’d rather hear the album’s instrumentals more often than not. Phonte-as-singer and the Justus League’s crooning elite have always worked best in minimal doses, peppered across a track or three of any given project. But when I heard a few weeks ago that ‘Tay literally raps about three verses on this entire album, my stomach started to ache...on that "oh we go" tip.

If it were a double album with discs dedicated each to R&B and rapping, or even if they announced there would be a lyrics-driven album coming shortly after, I would be more forgiving of Leave It All Behind. But fact of the matter is, I’ll probably be listening to this joint about 90 percent for Nic’s production, and I’m not sure how far even that’ll get me.

Monday, October 6, 2008

R.I.P. Rap City

BET's Rap City is done. It's not the best of news, but considering what the show has become in the past few years – basically a reflection of the ever-deteriorating quality of BET programming – it’s hardly a tearjerker.

I used to tune into Rap City not just to witness Joe Clair's often-erratic behavior and ogle Big Lez, but to get the dish on some of the best hip-hop artists of the mid- to late-90s, watch whole blocs of their videos and peep their newest cuts. Rap City was at its prime in an era when video shows still played the whole damn video, and you could still peep low-budget films from underground artists. If not for the show, I may have never fallen in love with Black Star after seeing Common walking up the street rapping in the video.

I think if I dig in my daddy's basement far enough, I could still find the VHS tape of the Wu Tang episode they played before Wu Tang Forever dropped; they had damn near EVERY Wu video that mattered play through the two-hour episode. I cared a bit less about it when Big Tigger was running The Basement, but the artists he had come on were often reflective of hip-hop's general decline.

Not quite as sad as when Yo! MTV Raps went off the air, but we did lose a one-time bastion of the genre; regardless of the number of Yung Joc videos that aired in its final days.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Figuring out when to say...when

This song is to be bumped while reading the blog.

Story time, folks.

About a month ago I met this woman – Let’s call her “O-Ren Ishii” for functional purposes – through a University of Michigan Black Alumni Association event. I took to her immediately because she had this feisty, take-no-shit vibe to her that I always find entertaining. We started to build a friendship based on our talking copious amounts of trash to one another.

She gave me shit because I’m a “baby:” four years younger than her. I also nipped at her age, as well as her height (she’s a shorty) and the fact that she’s biracial (Black and Vietnamese). Our nascent friendship was one of humor and innocuous ribbing; mostly executed via text message.

Last week, O-Ren asked to go out for dinner; our first time just hanging out together outside of the association. We had a great sushi dinner and ice cream; complimented by great conversation throughout the evening that vacillated between the serious (relationships and jobs) and light-natured shit-talking.

At the very end of the evening, I told her the story about the sex tour I’d gone on in Chicago at the beginning of the year. During that story, I mentioned that we passed by the massage parlors where they give the “happy endings;” places where they traffic in illegal sex slaves, who are often of Asian descent.

I told her “they took us by the places where they traffic in your people…”

She cut me off with a “goodbye Dustin” and ran off to her car with what I perceived to be a half-smile on her face, so I just giggled to myself as she drove off, thinking nothing of it. After I got back home and looked at my phone, I saw that she’d gone apo-fucking-plectic with a barrage of text messages that ultimately went something like this:


The whole thing caught me off-guard. I played it so mellow and cool because I couldn't see or smell the fire, only to realize that she was genuinely pissed off. Over the course of the next 24 hours I actually did apologize for making that joke to her, but when she pressed me I maintained that it was a joke and that not everyone would necessarily take offense to it.

Needless to say, that wasn’t good enough for her. I thought her approach in dealing with it all was borderline infantile, so I was alright with deading the friendship in the water.

I mean, I tried.

I have a reputation among many of my closest friends as the cat without a filter: I’m prone to say or write whatever’s on my mind, whenever, with little regard to the consequences.

I actually pride myself on eschewing political correctness. No demographic has ever been safe from my crosshairs: men, women, black, whites, Hispanics, Asians, fat people, skinny people, gay people, straight people, handicapped folks, living people, dead people, freakishly tall people, freakishly midgety people, ugly babies, ugly octogenarians and the occasional green muhfuckah.

The Manifesto is a character I created over eight years ago to house that character: a truth-teller rooted in biting humor that is not necessarily a direct reflection on who Dustin is as a person. The Manifesto thrives on stereotypes and minimal facts but utilizes little to none of Dustin’s compassion.

Here’s the key: at the end of the day – for either character – it’s all in jest. I can make jokes about how Asian people can’t back out of their garages without getting in an accident, or how John McCain could take away the whole black vote from Obama by mass-mailing “Free November 4 Brunch at Old Country Buffet” flyers throughout the country, but it’s really all for shits and giggles.

The real me has friends and family of all different races, sizes and religions. The real me is hospitable and jovial to the people he meets, with no judgment. The real me keeps the prejudice to a minimum. The real me is extremely loyal to his family, friends and partners.

The real me is disgusted by the world’s social and economic ills every single day; and that includes sex trafficking (for what it’s worth, the joke was less about sex trafficking and more of another shot at O-Ren’s “Asianness”); so much so that he strives to find the humor in all of it.

My obstacle is that women have historically been a lot less tolerable of that “unsavory” side of me. I’ve gotten minimal consternation from men for my ribald brand of humor, for obvious reasons, but I’ve only met a couple women in my life who truly “get” me in that aspect.

Ironically, the only two women I ever fell in love with are stalwart feminists who fit in a demographic least likely to put up with my crapola.

I saw the writing on the wall even back in college with my then-girlfriend: I remember one of my best friends Leland telling me that my writing “softened up” – shedding a bit of the Angry Black Man edge – when I started dating her.

For example, she hated the use of the word “bitch” - one of my favorite expletives - in any context, so I often went out my way to curb that when I was with her. During one impassioned discussion/argument/debate, I even offered to permanently put The Manifesto to bed if it met a more comfortable relationship; something she wouldn’t allow.

We worked past it by default, because I retired The Manifesto when we graduated. But now that I’ve resurrected it, I find myself staring down the barrel of the same issues all over again.

Loving someone else just enough forces you to put things in perspective, and it made me set out to answer two questions: 1) What can one sacrifice to improve a relationship without sacrificing one's true essence; and 2) At what point should I become socially responsible and acknowledge that my words might have more power than I previously gave them credit for?

I acknowledge that with age and wisdom comes a heightened sensitivity to the power of words, especially when they can reach many people. What I need to figure out is exactly how I factor that into my writing. The funny thing is, I’d be right at home at a gay pride parade or a women’s rights march, but what does it mean if the things I write for public consumption are diametrically opposed to my true opinions?

But then, I also wonder exactly how far I should go in censoring myself. Again, I pride myself on being an equal-opportunity shit-talker, but frankly, everyone is offended by something. For example, the non-black women I date might have iron-clad feminist sensibilities, but might also turn around and laugh aloud at something that a lot of Black folks wouldn’t find funny. Or able-bodied Hispanic folks might laugh at something that the handicapped don’t find the least bit humorous.

We’re a nation of hypocrites, and no one is offended by all the things they should be…just those which closely pertain to them.

Of course, as the issue pertains to a woman that I am with and intend on staying with for awhile, I believe my words should be kept in closer consideration; if only for the preservation of a relationship that is important to me. I’ve never looked for a woman who is in lockstep with my brand of humor - I realize that’s a tall goddamn order - so I know that I need to make an effort to meet halfway.

Still, I admit the whole thing is somewhat perplexing, at any rate. What do you all think?
I really want feedback. All comments welcome.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A decade in the Belly

I was a precocious 17-year-old.

That made for insolence, defiance and a general annoying nature; as it does for many 17-year-olds. But being as how my life was not yet my own, that insolence ended up pissing my father off to such a high degree (for what I don’t even remember), that I was dead to rights on Friday, November 4, 1998, when I wanted nothing more than to be in the movie theater for the opening night of Belly.

A couple weekends ago, I decided on an impulse to dust off the DVD (which I got for free a few years ago). It was my first time watching the film it in its entirety since the 1990s, and it forced me to put the movie in a present-day context.

It’s important to understand first that these two eras in hip-hop – the late ‘90s and the late ‘00s – are quite disparate. New York still ran hip-hop back then, and Def Jam was going through a renaissance period thanks to the popularity and album sales of then-newcomer DMX, Erick Sermon and the Def Squad, Onyx, Method Man, Redman and the whole “Survival of the Illest” movement.

Despite the ignoble, money-hungry intentions of cats like Ma$e and the erstwhile Puff Daddy during the much-maligned Shiny Suit Era, the grimy dark-clouds-and-hard-times, baggy-jeans-and-Timbs, run-yo’-jewels hip-hop was still embraced.

As such, Belly, a tale of two street hustlers, their descent into the dubious worlds of drugs and the underworld, followed by their respective redemptions, rang a bit more vivid in the pre-Y2K era.

DMX was a stellar breakout artist, having dropped two great albums in one year. Nas was my hero, and I think most of the hip-hop community felt the same way back then. So seeing Belly without getting an exact handle on what it was about beforehand was not even a question.

When my punishment was finally lifted, my first order of business was to see it alone on a weekend afternoon. A muddled, storyline, terrible dialogue (which, to be fair, is not too far off from how street niggas actually talk) and ridiculous cinematography from director and former music video maven Hype Williams (watch to see how many facial shots were cut off by any corner of the screen for "artistic effect") made for a resoundingly disappointing experience.

That was Nas’ first, and as far as I know, last acting experience. As it should be…stick with what you know, yo.

The dark and ominous era of the genre that allowed for Belly has largely passed in favor of a lighter, more emo-infused hip-hop culture: Big jeans and Timbs have been replaced with nut-groping jeans and extra-medium sweaters. The most popular rappers are barely old enough to buy an issue of Playboy. Horrible gun-clap rap has replaced well-executed gun-clap rap. The internet exposes cats for bullshitting. And New York’s contemporary hip-hop heroes are either so far gone from the street life or they just plain fucking suck.

I mean, who would star in a movie like Belly today? Lil’ Wayne and The Game?? And who would fill T-Boz’s role? Matter fact, where the fuck is T-Boz these days anyway?!?!?!?

As for me, I’ve become something of a cinema elitist in the past 10 years. Despite a guilty penchant for certain questionable film genres, I tend to gravitate toward movies that offer pretty much everything that Belly doesn’t: a coherent plot, an engaging storyline, true emotional resonance and actors whose only camera experience is not limited to lip-sync rapping in front of one, swinging a bottle of Moet while surrounded by video “models” and hype men.

Despite the movie’s mind-blowing ill opening sequence, over Soul II Soul’s, “Back to Life” acapella (linked below), Belly really is a shitfest of a movie. But while I couldn’t even appreciate the movie as a teenager, I appreciate the era from which it was born. Belly IS hip-hop. Watching it again made me reminisce on that simple and musically rich period of my life; not to mention it made me want to pull out the movie’s dope soundtrack from the stacks.

I think what bothers me most is that no movie of its ilk could come out in 2008 without starring Michael Jai White and making its way straight to the “Urban” DVD section of your movie rental joint. It’s not that hip-hop is dead…it’s that we don’t care about it like we used to.

Scary Spice...Channel

I don't care, son...this is good news.
Maybe now I can do what I haven't done in years: Read it for something other than the articles.